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September 28, 2015Posted in: Programs & Resources Tagged:

I Can’t Sleep Because of My Tourette Syndrome

shutterstock_131232227Did you know that sleep problems often come with having Tourette?

Have you ever wondered why?

A recent journal article tried to answer this question by looking at existing research. Here are some important points from the article:

  • Insufficient or disturbed sleep can result in learning problems, stressful/emotional problems, inattention
  • 25-30% of people with TS told their doctors they had sleep challenges; this rate increased for those with Tourette and additional associated conditions
  • Having ADHD and Tourette puts a person at a very high risk or great chance of having sleep issues
  • Sleep issues experienced by people with Tourette include: difficulty falling or staying asleep, separation anxiety in the evening, sleep walking, and/or tics or other movements during sleep
  • Most likely, people with TS continue to tic while sleeping, though more research is needed to confirm this fully
  • The clinical significance of tics during sleep or the health consequences of tics during sleep are not very well understood or researched
  • A lot of studies on this topic have mixed rather than consistent results

What can you do if you have sleep problems associated with TS?

  1. Talk to your doctor about it
  2. Think about choosing a blanket, pillow, mattress and sleep position that works best for you. For example, weighted blankets or vest may be preferred by a child with sensory challenges.
  3. Try to incorporate physical activity into your day.
  4. Consider using a white-noise machine to mask bothersome sounds.
  5. Keep a consistent sleep schedule as much as possible – wake up and go to bed at the same time, even on weekends
  6. Have wind-down time to help you or your child relax prior to bedtime (e.g., soft music, read a book, familiar toys or blankets)
  7. Avoid caffeine before bed
  8. If you are a parent, try to take care of your sleep too (you may need additional assistance for this)
  9. Recognize that you are trying your best and don’t be too hard on yourself


Are these tips helpful?

What do you do for your sleep problems?




Jan, James et al. “Sleep Hygiene for Children with Neurodevelopmental Disabilities”. Pedatrics 122, 1243, 2008.


  1. Paul Marino says:

    This article is accurate except for one point. I was diagnosed with Tourette’s Syndrome when I was 5 (I’m 20 now). I have met two other people with Tourette’s. Those two people with the syndrome have told me that they do not tic in their sleep, likewise with myself. It’s a bold assumption that individuals with this condition have tics in their sleep, and maybe interviewing patients with the disorder would benefit the studies and provide more factual information. It is assumptions like this that cause the public to have a skewed understanding as to what TS is. Thank you for reading.

    • I agree , my daughter does not tic in her sleep. She was diagnosed with TS at age 7, now 28. Being a Respiratory Therapist and educated in sleep disorders, my daughter had a sleep study in early teens . She had evidence of central sleep apnea’s, not severe at the time, but significant enough to warrant prescription to improve sleep quality. She is having e Extreme difficulty with sleep now. Planning to have another sleep study due to fact that problems with coping with school and work have occurred and sleep problems could be a significant part of the problem coping . I am so pleased that the canadian website is so detailed about other comorbidities associated with TS. Space I and my daughter are finding this information very useful to to understand and possibly help us work through issues. I feel there is hope for her to deal better with life situations if she re-addresses some of the concerns associated with these comorbidities. Sometimes as life goes on and other issues arise it is easy to forget the actual limitations associated with T ass and how best to remedy minimize affects of those in for success in life.

    • I was diagnosed when I was 3. I was told by multiple bedmates that I, do in fact tick in my sleep, although
      I didn’t believe it. BUT I do have difficulty falling asleep because of my tics and the comorbidity issues.

  2. My 9yr old son was diagnosed 2 years with TS. He will tic in his sleep when he is going through a waxing period of increased tics. But the tics in his sleep aren’t near as many or as intense as when he is awake.

  3. I apologize, my last sentence was to read TS not what it reads. I also wish to modify my last sentence in the sense that I appreciate all the information reminding me of her comorbidities such as her sleep issue being being one of her possible comorbidities. Being reminded of these other issues as not a problem with lack of motivation or direction on her part and dealing with these issues based on this knowledge assures me she will be more able to achieve. By acheive, I mean find ways to cope with life on life‘s terms with every possible tool available for her TS and co morbidities minimizing obstruction to self compassion, goal setting, hope and good quality of life.

  4. No tics while asleep just can’t seem to calm myself to get to sleep

  5. Thank you for the suggestions – my family member is struggling with falling asleep because of his motor tics and I am trying to find some ways to help him.

    Paul, your sample size of 3 people is not enough to assume that nobody with TS struggles with this.

  6. Sarah Wright says:

    For those saying they don’t tic in their sleep, have you had this confirmed with a sleep study? If not then I’m afraid you couldn’t possibly know that, you’re asleep. If someone has stayed awake watching, then how are they seeing if you’re having tics or not. My experience of tics in sleep (from watching my daughter) is that they are reduced in severity and frequency but are still visible, including vocal which present as moaning or grunting, rather than the swearing and rude phrases we are used to. She also has internal tics which lead to her waking frequently for toilet urges, which result in nothing. Far greater studies, in the form of comprehensive sleep studies, need to be done before any conclusions can be made.

  7. I have watched my son sleep
    – he appears to have tics for a large majority of the time he’s asleep. Also, he is always tired.

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